The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame writers’ ballot might very well be the most fascinating and polarizing such referendum in the museum’s history. This week, ahead of the results being announced Tuesday, The Post’s Ken Davidoff will break down the many issues and debates in play before revealing his ballot.
Contemplate the narrative that the Baseball Hall of Fame is constructing for itself in real time:
“For its first 115 years or so, the grand old game was played, generally, by gentlemen of the highest moral fiber. Then, inexplicably, a swarm of rapscallions descended upon the scene and threatened the sport’s very integrity.”
Do we really think that the people competing in Major League Baseball collectively suffered a sportsmanship swan dive beginning in the late 1980s? Or is the illegal performance-enhancing drugs era a function not of character, but rather technology? Mike Schmidt and the late Bob Gibson, both long ago enshrined in Cooperstown, are among those self-aware and clear-eyed enough to concede that they very well might have tried steroids had they been easily accessible in their playing days.
That concern dominated my thoughts as I filled out this quite consequential 2022 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, the results of which will be announced Tuesday evening on the MLB Network. Here’s where I landed:
1. Barry Bonds
He is the first (alphabetically) of four highly accomplished players who find themselves in their 10th and final shot with the writers, and gosh, what impact does it have on the game’s primary museum to not include the undisputed home run king in its Plaque Gallery? Unlike hit king Pete Rose, also not there, Bonds never received any discipline for his alleged usage of illegal PEDs, let alone being banned permanently.
2. Roger Clemens
Bonds’ partner in crime, so to speak, as 1) the two men faced similar levels of illegal PED scrutiny without ever being found guilty of anything; 2) Clemens is arguably the pitching equivalent of Bonds; and 3) this is The Rocket’s last shot here. He’s an all-timer, regardless of how he achieved it.
3. Todd Helton
The first baseman’s major controversy, a minor matter compared to the two names above him, is that he played all of his home games at hitter-friendly Coors Field. Nevertheless, the lifetime Rockie performed well enough (a 133 OPS+ and a massive peak from 2000 through 2004) to silence such doubts.
4. Andruw Jones
If the center fielder retired after his age-30 season, 2007, he probably would be off this ballot and in the Hall already. Instead, he fell off a cliff his final five years, after he left the Braves; he is trending the right way in his fifth year of eligibility. I say, let’s honor his pre-cliff run.
5. David Ortiz
Putting aside the illegal PED issue (he failed only the 2003 survey test, which really shouldn’t matter for these purposes), you can examine his regular-season statistics and wonder if he merits a coveted slot on this maximum-10 ballot. Once you factor in his postseasons, though — a .289/.404/.543 slash line and three rings with the Red Sox — he should be a slam dunk. Based on Ryan Thibodaux’s tracking, Ortiz ranks as the most likely player here to be elected.
6. Manny Ramirez
It is the Hall of Fame, right? How many players of his era were more famous than Manny Being Manny? For good reason, too, as one of the most accomplished and dramatic hitters of his era. As for his two suspensions for violating baseball’s illegal PED protocols, well…
7. Alex Rodriguez
….to all of the writers who complain that the Hall hasn’t provided guidance on how to deal with illegal PEDs, I submit that the Hall provided all the guidance we’ll ever need when it sprinted to induct retired commissioner Bud Selig through the Today’s Era Committee. Selig, as Brewers owner, was found guilty of violating baseball’s collective bargaining agreement thrice for colluding with his fellow lords of the manor to suppress free agency, a crime far more damaging than drug usage. Hence A-Rod, found guilty only once, merits my vote.
8. Scott Rolen
One of the top third basemen of his era on both sides of the ball. It’s looking quite good for the fifth-year candidate to eventually gain entry.
9. Curt Schilling
As much as I disagree with his defenders who claim that he’s a victim of “politics” — no principled conservative would endorse any of his hateful messages — I disagree more with my fellow voters who punish him for his toxicity. When he whiffs in his final shot here, as looks very likely, it will reflect more poorly on the Hall than on him.
10. Sammy Sosa
The fourth member of the last-chance group, he never has gained any serious traction, partly because of the illegal PED suspicions and partly because a deep dive into components like his on-base percentage and defense don’t help. I support him because of his monster peak from 1993 through 2002, and his good cheer during his 1998 home run chase.
Close calls: Andy Pettitte and Gary Sheffield, both on my ballot last year, left to make room for Big Papi and A-Rod. Perhaps they’ll return next year.
On deck: Because at least four and quite possibly five of my choices will be gone from the 2023 ballot, could that leave room for worthy considerations Bobby Abreu, Mark Buehrle, Jeff Kent and Billy Wagner?